I recently had the chance to ask Cullen Bunn and Brian Churilla a few questions about Hellbreak and some of their other projects. I’ve long been a fan of Cullen, but I’m only recently discovering Brian, thanks in no small part to The Sixth Gun mini-series Sons Of The Gun they did together and the Big Trouble In Little China series. Getting the skinny on their newest collaboration was awesome, to say the least.
If you haven’t checked this amazing new comic out, I urge you to do so. The premise is awesome and it looks like it’s going to be a great run! If you missed my review of the first one, you can find it here.
So, without any more delays, here’s what went down with Cullen!
Geeks Of Doom: Soul rescuing seems to be a very dangerous occupation, based on your first issue. How did this group come into being?
Cullen Bunn: We’re not going to see how the team came together right away. The long and short of it is that the Kerberos Corporation needed a group of hard cases to run the toughest rescue operations imaginable. What they got was a team of characters who each have their own backstories and sins and agendas that we’ll be exploring in more detail as the story progresses.
GoD: Is each Hell tailored to the individual or group of individuals? Or are they in one hell simply because that’s where they ended up?
CB: At least initially, the different Hells (called Infernal Fragments) are not tailored to the individual… at least as far as we know. Later in the series, though, we’ll get a little more information on how these hellish realms take shape. Those stories might reveal a little more personal take on Hell.
GoD: It seems very technical for the agents, insofar as how they get there. When it comes to extraction, what are the dangers of being left in Hell?
CB: For the Orpheus team, getting left in Hell would be tantamount to dying and facing the ultimate punishment for their sins. They would, in theory, become permanent residents of the underworld. Although in this series, the permanence of damnation is not a given, so you never know.
GoD: You’ve worked with Brian Churilla before with what I saw as great success. Would you say this project included him because of that earlier collaboration?
CB: Working with Brian on the Sons of the Gun limited series definitely opened the door for us to work together on this project. Years ago, I stumbled onto Brian’s artwork while searching for collaborators on a book. It didn’t work out at the time, but Brian and I kept in contact. I’m happy we’re finally able to work together on an ongoing title.
GoD: Is there an endgame for the series or this arc? It seems like a pretty open plot that could lead anywhere.
CB: There are many stories that could be told in this world, and we’ll get to as many of them as possible. There is, however, a finale in mind. I’ve always felt that stories are stronger when they are moving toward something.
GoD: You write for a wide variety of audiences/demographics. Is it ever difficult to reign a story in to keep it within the boundaries of your target audience?
CB: If I’m moving from a mature audience title to an all-ages book, there might be a short “reset” period between the two. It usually doesn’t take much—a few moments to refocus, maybe reading some other books in the same vein to help cleanse the palate and get me in the mood for what’s ahead. I enjoy working on books for different readers, though. It definitely keeps me on my toes!
GoD: Shifting gears a bit, I’ve enjoyed The Sixth Gun from the beginning. It also feels like you are working on more spin off minis these days, does that mean you are writing less for other comics or have you managed to alter the laws that bind time and free up more of it for yourself? (I actually just did a bit of research and realize it’s just my perception of this that is skewed, you’re a very busy man!)
CB: I’ve definitely got a lot going on right now. To some degree, it’s misleading. A lot of the books that are coming out right now have been finished for months or even years. But, yeah, I’m pretty busy right now. 2014 was the busiest year I’ve ever had, and I think 2015 will be just as fast-paced. I’m already planning, though, to dial it back a little for next year. I love the work, though. I dreamed about writing stories for a living for so long, and I want to squeeze as much out of every day that I can. I work long days and long weeks, and I enjoy every second of it.
GoD: My youngest really enjoyed your book Crooked Hills, is there another coming? Have I missed it? And I’m not going to hide the fact that I also enjoyed the novel, so maybe this is me asking and not my daughter Vivienne, LOL.
CB: That makes me so happy! You haven’t missed the sequel. There is another one in progress, but I’ve been so busy with comics, I haven’t had a chance to finish it. My hope is that the novel is wrapped up this year! And it’s totally cool with me if you like the book as much as your daughter. When I wrote it, I was hoping adults and kids would both like it!
GoD: Anything you would like to add regarding Hellbreak? Or any of your other works or current projects?
CB: I’m really excited about this book, and I hope folks will give it a chance. Keep in mind, the first issue only costs a dollar. If you didn’t pre-order it, make sure to stop in your local comic book store to pick it up on March 11th. If they don’t have any in stock, ask them to reorder it. And then make sure to add the book to your pull-and-hold.
As for other projects, The Sixth Gun is still going strong, even though the series is slated to end this year. Issue 50 comes out in November, and that will wrap up the story we’ve been telling since the first issue.
I also have a new horror series starting up from Dark Horse. The book is called Harrow County, and it features artwork by Tyler Crook, who has worked with me on a few issues of The Sixth Gun and on the upcoming Sixth Gun limited series, Dust to Dust.
And I’m still doing a lot of work for Marvel and DC, including books like Sinestro, Lobo, Aquaman, Green Lantern: The Lost Army, and Magneto.
GoD: Thank you so much! I appreciate you taking the time to answer this, I know you are quite busy. Please feel free to add anything else that you think relevant.
CB: Readers who want to know more about my work can follow me on twitter (@cullenbunn) or check out my website (www.cullenbunn.com). I also have an e-newsletter (you can sign up on my site) within which I post the latest news and updates.
Brian had quite a bit to say, as well. I love the way he describes working on Hellbreak towards the end. His analogy tells me he really has a lot of fun creating art for Hellbreak. I cannot wait to see more from him in the future.
Geeks Of Doom: This isn’t the first time you and Cullen have worked together quite successfully in the past, what brought you together again?
Brian Churilla: Cullen and I worked on The Sixth Gun: Sons of the Gun together. He’s a great collaborator. I love working from his scripts. There’s always something fun to draw; some interesting problem(s) to solve…
GoD: How much direction do you get as far as designing the denizens of these different hells?
BC: Quite a bit, but I always have the freedom to make changes or suggestions during the process. It’s very collaborative.
GoD: Your creatures (and many characters) have a sort of grittiness to them, the term “bristling for a fight” comes to mind. Is that something that you aim for or is it just natural when dealing with darker artwork?
BC: That is all intuitive. I design a lot of stuff on the fly, so I just draw what seems fun at that moment.
GoD: When putting together an issue, what sort of time frame do you work within?
BC: Monthly! :)
GoD: Word has it that Cullen puts together some pretty detailed scripts and boards, are you able to follow these pretty closely or do you have a bit of creative license?
BC: Even though Cullen is very descriptive, he is always open to collaborate and compromise. It’s been a very smooth process. There’s no ego involved on anyone’s part.
GoD: How far ahead are the comics being created? Is there an endgame already in sight for this story arc?
BC: There’s a larger arc planned out that will take some time to unfurl. I can’t wait to reveal the sticky, throbbing horrors bubbling under the surface.
GoD: Your Big Trouble In Little China work was awesome, the characters seemed spot on in expression and body language. How much fun was that to do?
BC: Thanks. It was great. It is one of my favorite movies and it was a pleasure to work with Eric Powell for such an extended run. I’m really proud of my work on that series.
GoD: What other projects are you working on (or soon to be) currently? Hellbreak seems right up your alley, so to speak. Is there a genre you haven’t tackled yet, something on which you want to work?
BC: I’ve been spinning a lot of plates the last six or seven years, and am looking forward to maintaining just one monthly book.
GoD: Is there anything else you’d like to add regarding Hellbreak or another topic that I didn’t mention?
BC: Hellbreak is about as much fun as you can have in comics. Not only is it an over-the-top piece of genre fiction, it is also a nuanced, character-driven story with a lot of levels and dynamics to it. I hope everyone gets on board. I get to draw new versions of hell throughout the entire series. It’s this immense sandbox I get to play in every issue.
GoD: Thanks for answering my questions today! I really enjoy everything I’ve seen of yours and am anxious to see how awesome Hellbreak turns out!
BC: Thank you!
There you have it, folks. Straight from the source. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Thanks for reading!